Labour’s Living Wage policy supports positive change in public sector
14 Sep 2020
The Public Service Association welcomes Labour’s promise to guarantee many government contractors are paid at least the Living Wage of $22.10 per hour.
"Public Service Association members work alongside contractors like cleaners, caterers and security guards every day, and we strongly support them being paid the Living Wage," says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.
"The PSA also expects the policy will extend to include those working for labour hire companies within the public service, who are fundamentally doing the same job as the public servants they work alongside."
The policy initially extends only to the core public service, but the PSA argues contractors working in DHBs and the wider state sector should also be included.
"Low wages condemn far too many New Zealanders to a life of working poverty. The PSA has campaigned for years to close the public sector wage gap, and we are deeply opposed to the existence of a second-tier workforce in government agencies," says Mr Barclay.
"Contracting services out to the lowest bidder drives wages down, reduces accountability and standards, and condemns contracted workers to a life where they have fewer rights and protections than their permanently employed colleagues. Everyone deserves a Living Wage and we congratulate the Labour Party for committing to this policy, which will help employers face up to the real cost of outsourcing these services and might lead them to think twice before doing so in future."
The Ministry of Social Development has already committed to paying contracted security guards a Living Wage.
In August the government announced security staff in managed isolation and quarantine services will be directly employed, rather than relying on private contractors.
"Times are changing, and outdated assumptions about how the economy should function are being fundamentally challenged. Government should lead by example and invest in the wellbeing of working people and their families, rather than treating staff as a cost to be managed," says Mr Barclay.
"There are thousands of New Zealanders whose employment should be brought in house, rather than outsourced to a third party. Thousands more are classified as private contractors when they should be employees, with access to holiday pay, sick leave and so on. We hope policies like Labour’s Living Wage commitment signal a shift toward secure work with decent pay and conditions for all."
See also: Public servants get the Living Wage they deserve
Some of New Zealand’s lowest-paid government workers will now find it easier to pay bills, save for their retirement and feed their families, as the Government implements a Living Wage for the core public service.
From today, more than 1000 PSA members will get a pay boost to $20.55 ($42,744 per annum).
"We are delighted for these workers, who deserve to earn a decent living for the important work they do," PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says.
"The PSA asked Labour to commit to this policy during the 2017 election campaign, and it’s great to see they have delivered on their promises."
Two PSA members appeared at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s post-cabinet press conference today, and spoke about the difference this would make to their lives.
Samantha Tottenham, a deputy registrar with the Ministry of Justice said that for her the move to a Living Wage was about more than money.
"This tells me that what I do is being recognised and that the responsibilities of my job aren’t being undervalued.
"I’m also glad that people who start in jobs like mine in the future won’t have the same struggle I’ve experienced for the last three years to earn a reasonable living".
Amanda Sykes, a library assistant at the National Library, said that being paid at a higher level would free up some money after deductions for student loan and Kiwisaver payments.
"It means I’m not being left behind".
At the post-cabinet press conference the Prime Minister reiterated the number of steps taken by the Government to bring lower paid workers up to reasonable pay levels, including settlements for mental health and addiction workers and equal pay.
She also cited the recent step to put an end to performance pay for public service chief executives as a demonstration that the Government was now tackling longstanding inequalities that would make a long-term difference.
Ms Polaczuk: "It is encouraging that the Government is putting its own house right and that it has indicated future gains will come through bargaining between employers and unions - reinforcing the central role of collective bargaining.
"We have confidence this Government is serious about making a real difference in the lives of low-paid workers, and shares our view that the public service should set an example.
"We look forward to other state sector employers following the public service’s lead, and paying a Living Wage to all directly employed and contracted staff."
See also: PSA wins Living Wage for core public service employees
PSA members in the public service have secured a big victory - with all employees winning the right to be paid at least a Living Wage.
State Services Minister Chris Hipkins says there will be a one-off adjustment in pay from 1 September, with all employees receiving an hourly rate of $20.55 ($42,744 per annum).
"This is a big win for the Living Wage movement and for PSA members," PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says.
"We asked Labour to commit to this during the 2017 election campaign, and we are pleased to see it enacted today.
"It is heartening to know that many of the public service’s lowest-paid employees will now earn enough to feed their families, pay their bills and save for their retirement."
More than 1000 PSA members in the core public service are paid below the Living Wage.
Two members, who preferred to remain anonymous, explain the difference it would make to their lives:
"If I was receiving the Living Wage, I would not be having to sell my home. The extra money would at least let me have coffee with friends and the occasional clothing purchase, and give me back some pride."
"I trained for several years at a post-graduate level in order to properly qualify. Currently, I see no chance of paying off my student loan anytime soon. On a day to day basis, I am constantly worried that I won’t be able to pay for dental visits or to go to the doctors."
The PSA notes this is a one-off adjustment and that future gains will be subject to bargaining between employers and unions.
"We welcome the central role that the Government is giving to collective bargaining and the PSA in ensuring the rates are maintained on an ongoing basis", Mr Barclay says.
"We will work hard to ensure this is embedded in collective employment agreements so all public service employees can earn a Living Wage.
"This is part of a tranche of changes introduced by the new Labour government that will deliver real change for union members.
"We will continue to press the Government for changes that will lead to a strong, vibrant and innovative public service."
See also: Government must do better on Living Wage commitments
The Labour-led government must deliver on its promises of a Living Wage for all public service workers, the PSA says - as new figures reveal how many workers aren’t paid enough to live decently.
Information released to the PSA shows nearly 1 in 10 staff at the Ministry of Justice are paid below the Living Wage, which PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says is very disappointing.
329 Justice staff are paid below $20.55 an hour, most of them administrative staff supporting Court Registry workers.
"Without admin staff, the court system would grind to a halt," Mr Barclay says.
"It’s imperative these workers are paid enough to feed and clothe their families, pay their bills and save for their retirement.
"We expect the Ministry to urgently address this in bargaining, which will begin shortly."
Mr Barclay says PSA research has identified more than 1000 public service employees who are paid below the Living Wage.
The Ministry of Justice and MSD/Oranga Tamariki have the two largest groups.
"In its 2017 manifesto, Labour promised to pay all core public service workers the Living Wage - and extend this to contractors over time," Mr Barclay says.
"We intend to hold them to this promise.
"Under National, public servants had nine years of staffing caps, rising workloads and Bill English rubbishing their contributions to New Zealand.
"That has to change, and we would welcome confirmation the Government intends to follow through on its manifesto commitments."